Why We Sold the Airstream

When we started our full-time Airstream life, we didn’t set a specific timeline for how long we’d be on the road. We were shooting for around three years, but we weren’t going to force anything. Prior to our first night as full timers, we had never spent a night in the Airstream, so we didn’t know what to expect.

But we loved it.

From January of 2018 to March of 2020, we continuously zig-zagged through the western half of the United States and two Canadian provinces. We travelled to places we had never thought possible, many of which we had never even heard of until #airstreamlife. There are so many unique, beautiful, amazing places to see in this country of ours, and we felt privileged we were able to experience them.

And then March 2020 rolled in. When the pandemic started, we tried to travel as little as possible and stay socially distanced, but the isolation and uncertainty started to wear on us. We decided that the best thing for us to do (when staying home was the safest and considerate thing to do), was get off the road and find a home base to settle into. We decided on Bozeman, Montana, a city we had spent time in during the previous two summers. We loved its beauty, the outdoorsy-ness, and the small-town feel with all of the amenities a larger city has to offer, like good restaurants, breweries, and an airport. We found a perfect-for-us condo online, had the listing agent do a Facetime walkthrough, and set off from our little oasis of an RV resort outside Capitol Reef National Park and headed north. In early May, we did an in-person walkthrough and put in an offer that was accepted. Luckily, we were hitting the market just right and prices hadn’t yet increased. During the (many) weeks it took for us to close, we continued to live in the Airstream at a few different RV parks in the area. We finally closed at the end of July and settled into a ‘sticks and bricks’ once more.

And we loved it.

We loved all the things that you give up in order to live in an Airstream. Privacy. Rooms with doors. King-size bed. Washer and dryer. Dishwasher. Large shower. Normal-size kitchen appliances. We loved having a local grocery store again. We loved exploring all of the hiking trails in the area. For us, it was an incredibly easy transition from Airstream life to condo life. #noregrets

We were lucky to find an available indoor storage unit in the area for the Airstream to live in when it wasn’t being used. Over the next year (mid-2020 to mid-2021), as we continued to travel in the Airstream part-time, the thoughts starting creeping in. On the bad days (and there are ALWAYS bad days when it comes to RV life), we missed our new home. We found ourselves cutting some trips short so that we could get back to Bozeman sooner. We regularly talked about selling the Airstream, but decided to spend one more winter in San Diego before making any final decisions. We lived in San Diego pre-Airstream life and had spent a decent amount of our previous winters on the road there. We made it to Southern California mid-November and, well, it wasn’t the best experience. You can read more about that here, but the gist is that we ended up having to stay at a less-than-ideal RV park, had crappy weather, and Travis had a medical issue. It’s that last one that really cemented the idea of selling the Airstream, and what better place to do it than San Diego County? To read about the selling process, click here.

A lot of people in our life were surprised by our decision, but here are the reasons we came to it:

First, RVing has changed dramatically since we first started in 2018. There are hundreds of thousands of more RVs on the road now. You have to plan further ahead (like, sometimes a year or more) and pay more than ever before.

Second, we love Bozeman! Owning the Airstream made us feel like we had to travel regularly in it, otherwise it was stupid to be paying the carrying costs (storage and insurance). But we hadn’t gotten to spend much time exploring and enjoying Bozeman, and we wanted to change that.

Third, we lost the excitement and spark one needs to have to live the Airstream life. The concessions we had to make when living in a tiny space had started to outweigh the joy it brought. When people asked us how long we were going to full time, we would always say until it’s not fun anymore. And while we stopped full timing a while ago, part timing had lost the magic for us as well.

Fourth, Airstream’s parent company has an $18 billion backlog of orders. Airstream dealerships are empty. Someone ordering an Airstream today has to wait 9-12 months for delivery. This supply and demand issue means used Airstreams are selling quickly and for a good price on the private market. It was an ideal time to sell.

Fifth, Travis’s health scare put things into perspective. We were VERY lucky to be in San Diego when it happened, but could have easily been in the middle of nowhere. This was always the biggest fear for us and we just didn’t want to tempt fate twice.

But the number one reason for selling was 100% financial:

Not all that long ago, we “owned” a four-bedroom, three-bath home in North County San Diego. I say “owned” because we had a too-large mortgage on this too-large house and it was going to be decades before we truly “owned” it. I had student loans. We had vehicle loans. We had credit card debt. Yet, we were still eating out way too often and taking vacations we shouldn’t have. We were going to concerts and Broadway shows and buying clothes whenever we felt like it. We weren’t necessarily living beyond our means, but we definitely weren’t concerned with paying down debt or building our savings. Then, one day, a realtor knocked on our door and asked us if we wanted to sell our house. And we did. With the proceeds, we paid off our debt. We moved into a rental and eventually decided to buy the Airstream. With some of the remaining profits from the house, we were able to buy our Airstream and truck in cash. We entered our full-time Airstream life truly debt free. And because our mostly-remote consulting business easily transitioned to road life, our income didn’t change. Of course, there was still site rental fees, gas, propane, laundry, groceries, vehicle maintenance, insurance, etc. – but we didn’t owe anyone anything and it was a glorious feeling.

Our full-time Airstream life was much less expensive than our pre-Airstream life, but that may not be the case for everyone. We had a very spendy lifestyle in an area of the country with a high cost of living. Also, living in the Airstream really turned us into minimalists, which is also not the case for all RVers. We stopped buying stuff – mainly because there was no room for it. We stopped going out to eat all the time. We stopped taking vacations. We started to really pay attention to what we spent our money on. I’ve seen people enter the RV world thinking they were going to save tons of money and then not, but for us, it worked out. During our 2.5 years of full-time Airstream life, we were able to build up our savings, increase our investments, and focus on contributing to retirement. Financial stability kind of became an addiction for us.

As the discussion about selling the Airstream became more serious, we looked at our financials closely. We realized that if we were able to get a certain amount for the AS (which we ended up getting), that we’d be able to pay the condo off and once again be 100% debt free. So that, my friends, is what we did. Just 18 months and 4 days after closing on our condo, we were able to pay the mortgage in full.

Buying and living in the Airstream taught us how to be financially intelligent. Selling the Airstream allowed us to be truly financially independent. And 1.5 years after quitting the full-time lifestyle, we are still living a pretty minimalist life, choosing not to surround ourselves with stuff. People ask if selling the Airstream was bittersweet. For us, it was not. Did we get to do and see everything we had hoped to? No, and that’s okay. We loved that part of our life, but we do not miss it. We did, however, learn so much about ourselves and how we want to live our lives, so we will be eternally appreciative of our time spent as Airstreamers.

The Last Hurrah: Our Final Stay

When we would spend prolonged periods of time in the San Diego area, we preferred to stay at Surf & Turf RV Park in Del Mar. You can read about our previous stays there here and here. This is a barebones park that is essentially a gravel parking lot (though some trees are present) surrounded by a fence. Water and electric hookups are available and a pump truck comes around three times a week to empty your tanks. However, Surf & Turf decided to upgrade its hookups and install sewer connections this year, so our usual spot was out of commission temporarily. Our plan was to wait it out in the meantime across the street at the fairgrounds, where there are 58 RV sites with full hookups. They don’t take reservations, so after spending our one night in Temecula, we contacted the fairgrounds to make sure they had a spot for us before heading that way. The response: We’re closed until December 6th. A bit of a problem seeing as it was November 20th.

Surf & Turf is also owned by the fairgrounds, so I can only assume that both places are getting a little primping at the same time. We found ourselves in quite the predicament. After driving 750 miles from our condo in Bozeman to pick up our Airstream in Clackamas, Oregon where we had some work done, and then driving more than 1,250 miles to Southern California where we planned to spend the next four months, we appeared to be without a place to stay.

We both felt sick to our stomachs. How were we going to find a place to stay in San Diego County with no notice in late November? There are not many options for extended stays in an RV in the area and there are even fewer options that would be considered anything close to affordable. It might be possible to string together a few nights here and there at various regional parks and state beach campgrounds, but that wouldn’t work for us. We had very recently scrapped a lovely part of our route that would have taken us to a beautiful olive oil ranch in San Ardo, a week in Pismo Beach, a few nights in Ventura, and a few more nights in San Juan Capistrano, in order to arrive and get settled in San Diego earlier than originally planned in order to take care of some new work commitments and a personal commitment that required an airport. We needed to be able to stay in one place for the foreseeable future. We had ever only stayed at one other RV park in San Diego County for an extended period of time – Escondido RV Resort – and there were things about it that we didn’t care for. You can read about that stay here. However, we went back to our ‘it’s best to know what to expect then not’ school of thought, and decided to reach out to them first. Ultimately, thanks to a recent cancellation and moving a guest to a different site (you’re welcome for the upgrade!) they were able to get us in that day for a one-month stay. Phew! Our plan was to move to the fairgrounds after our month was up, and then hopefully Surf & Turf would be open.

At the time, we had no idea this would be our last time hitching up, our last travel day, and the last place we ever stayed with the Airstream — more about that shortly.

We had gotten lucky. We had never left such a long stretch of time to chance like that before, and this is why. Even though we had a plan that seemed like it would work, it didn’t. After almost four years of Airstreaming, mostly full time, we continued to learn lessons and experience things we hadn’t before. Some people are able to float from one place to the next without much of a plan in place and still sleep soundly at night – we are not those people.

We made the uneventful 33-minute drive down I-15 to where we’d be spending the next two months. (That’s right, TWO months — more about THAT shortly as well.) The RV park was everything we remembered it being: cramped, noisy from the nearby interstate, and with a cell signal that for some reason drops to sometimes unusable levels the moment you drive in. We wedged ourselves into our site with zero inches to spare and breathed a sigh of relief.

RV Park Stats

Name: Escondido RV Resort

Address: 1740 Seven Oaks Rd, Escondido, VA 92026

Website: www.escondidorv.com

Dates Stayed: November 20, 2021 – January 20, 2022

Site: 66

Rate: Whatever They Feel Like Charging + Electricity

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Dog Run
  • Pool with Spa
  • Propane Fill
  • Wi-Fi
  • Cable TV
We just barely fit into our site. Actually, sometimes we hung over a few inches. The sites on the lower level of the park are small, with many people not able to fit their vehicles completely in their sites, making navigating with an RV and backing into sites more difficult than it should be.
We backed up as far as we possibly could while still having the steps over the concrete.

Oh, site 66. You are divine during the sunny hot days, with all the shade you provide. However, once winter hits and the rains come, your lack of sun makes for an incredibly damp, muddy stay, made worse by the sprinklers going off every night. Also, road noise, almost constant sewer smell, and not a whole lot of outdoor space — two thumbs waaaaay down from us.

A few more notes about the RV park:

(You may want to read about our previous stay to understand where some of these are coming from.)

  • The bulky cable boxes have been switched our for coaxial cable hookups at the pedestals. We use streaming services, so this was not a benefit to us, but at least they’ve upgraded this since our last stay.
  • The AT&T signal is still atrocious within the confines of the RV park.
  • They offer two levels of WIFI: 850kbps speed free for 3 days, meaning you have to sign in every 3 days; and 5mbps speed available for 1 day ($5.99), 1 week ($12.95), or 1 month ($39.99). We opted for the 1-month plan, as we needed to work and the speed of the free WIFI wasn’t going to cut it.
  • One load of laundry costs $7.00. And you can’t make it a full load, because if you do, it won’t dry completely, even on the highest setting.
  • Since our last stay, they’ve shifted from being just a short-term stay RV park to having many long-term residents, or people living there. This means that it’s difficult to get one of the nicer, larger sites in the upper part of the park, as many are occupied for the foreseeable future.
  • You may have noticed that I wrote ‘Whatever They Feel Like Charging’ for the rate. There is no rhyme or reason to their rates. They fluctuate, they surge, and two people in two identical sites may be charged drastically different amounts. We were at their mercy. And don’t get me started about what they charge for electricity. Again, whatever they feel like charging.

Anyway, a few days after getting all settled in, we ran a bunch of errands, which included Travis getting his booster shot. He felt fine for the first 24 hours, normal fever & exhaustion for the next 24, and then started having chest pains and shortness of breath. After 24 hours, we decided to go to the ER on Thanksgiving. He ended up being admitted due to an elevated troponin level. Troponin is a protein found in heart muscles that is typically only measurable after a cardiac event. Anything above 40 usually signifies a heart attack. Travis’s was 13,000. The staff at the hospital was very calm and professional, but it was clear this was unknown territory and serious. While it seemed the booster was the culprit, the cardiac team did their due diligence and investigated any possible causes as well as thoroughly examine his heart to make sure there was no permanent damage. He had x-rays, EKGs, an echocardiogram, an angiogram, and a cardiac MRI. Everything looked great, considering, and his troponin started to trend down. He was released a few days later as there really isn’t a treatment for his diagnosis, which was myocarditis. That means one of the layers of his heart was inflamed. They confirmed Travis was one of the few people to have myocarditis as a result of receiving an mRNA vaccine. But Travis went above and beyond by having an actually unheard of troponin level — his doctor said he was a 1 in 5 million case. The staff at the VA Hospital in La Jolla was great and we felt very fortunate to be somewhere that he was able to receive such incredible medical care. After being released, he was instructed to take it easy and not lift anything greater than 5lbs. Walking was fine, but no hiking or any other activity that would get his heart rate too elevated. It was because of this, that we decided to see if we could extend our stay at Escondido RV Resort to two months, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the bit of stress that hitching up and towing can bring. They were able to extend our stay in our same site. While I’m not a fan of the RV resort’s billing practices, they were VERY accommodating.

In the following weeks, we kept a low profile so that Travis could recover, but we did get to spend some time with friends by way of lunch and dinner dates, as well as one of our favorite past times — trivia at the brewery. It was kind of a weird time. With Travis’s illness, the holidays, and COVID still hanging around, the lovely, eventful, social winter in San Diego that we had previously imagined was kind of anything but. We were somewhat detesting the RV park. The weather was crap. The annoyances of living in a small space were becoming overwhelming. We were missing our condo in Bozeman — the space, the king-size bed, the washer & dryer, the dishwasher, even the low humidity (seriously, it was SO damp in the Airstream). We had talked about selling the Airstream a number of times during the previous months, and maybe even year. There were a number of reasons discussed, and I plan to go into them in more detail in an upcoming post, but for now you can refer to this post for a few of them. But the time felt right. Like, really right. So, we listed it. And we sold it. To read more about the selling process, check out this post.

After selling the Airstream, we moved into a hotel. We weren’t ready to leave San Diego quite yet and Travis had a followup appointment with his cardiologist scheduled at the VA in La Jolla. However, after they called to change it to a virtual visit (because, COVID), we decided there was no reason to hang around any longer. We had just seen our friends again at trivia on Thursday night, the doctor called on Friday, and we bugged out Saturday morning. We spent Saturday night in St. George, Utah and made it back to Bozeman Sunday evening. We had rented out our condo for the months of November and December, so we spent many hours cleaning that night and unloading the truck. We finished getting things situated in the condo on Monday, as well as doing load after load of laundry, and then emptied out the Airstream’s storage unit.

We were officially no longer Airstreamers.

2021: A Year in Review

The beginning of 2021 found us in Bozeman, Montana, dealing with the first real winter we’ve experienced since we moved from Wisconsin to Southern California in 2011. Thanks to Covid, we decided to spend the winter in our condo that we purchased in July of 2020, instead of heading to warmer climes. Bozeman is as equally as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer, but after almost six months of cold and snow, we were ready to adventure again.

Our very first night back in the Airstream for the year was May 15th. We spent two nights at a nearby campground to get the rig de-winterized and to make sure everything was still functional after its long winter sleep. Besides needing to replace the propane tank hoses, all systems were a go! It was during this first outing that we started a new tradition we refer to as #CampfireSweatshirtSeries. Here’s a sneak peak, but I’ll share more about that later:

Without further ado, our year in numbers:

 

States Visited: 5 | Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and California – We weren’t able to add any new states to our Airstream travel map this year, so our total sits at 20. (And that’s where it will stay, but more on that later.)

Montana | Glacier National Park
Wyoming | Grand Teton National Park
Idaho | Craters of the Moon National Monument
Oregon | Silver Falls State Park – Sublimity, OR
California | Sue-Meg State Park – Trinidad, CA

Miles Traveled: 3,410 | We opted to stay mostly close to home this year and it really made for an enjoyable spring, summer, and fall to not be putting too many miles on.

Gallatin Gateway, MT | May 23

Nights on the Road: 100 | I’m actually pretty happy with this number, seeing as we spent almost the entire first half of the year in our condo.

Anthony Chabot Regional Park – Castro Valley, CA | November 15

Different Overnight Locations: 24 | We had a good mix of site types this year, with a fifth of our nights being spent in national park campgrounds; a healthy blend of city, county, & regional parks; four state parks, all in Oregon; a sprinkle of casino, Harvest Host, & fairgrounds stays; two different KOAs; and the remaining nights being spent in private RV parks/campgrounds.

Millsite Park RV Park – Myrtle Creek, OR | November 5 – 6
Emigrant Springs State Park – Meacham, OR | September 30 – October 2
Azalea Glen RV Park – Trinidad, CA | November 11 – 13

Total Site Fees: $4017.79 | That number is a combination of nightly/weekly/monthly rates, tax, reservation fees, and electricity. It comes out to an average of $42.72/night, which is much higher than we like to spend. However, our not-too-ridiculously-priced place where we usually spend the winter in San Diego County was closed for maintenance and the also-not-too-spendy backup wasn’t available when we first arrived, so we had to settle for one of the holy-crap-this-is-stupid-money RV parks for the last month and a half of the year.

Cheapest Site – $0.00 | Harvest Hosts at Milano Family Winery in Hopland, CA — November 13
Most Expensive Site – $86.15 | West Glacier KOA — July 12 – 15

National Park Service Sites: 6 (Officially) | We revisited a few of our favorite national parks – Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier and Redwood. We also added a new one in Pinnacles. We visited Crater of the Moon National Monument as well, and minus Redwood, our 20 nights in national parks campgrounds were spread across those 5 parks. We also made it to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but didn’t officially cross the bay to Golden Gate National Recreation Area. And one of our favorite places to visit this year was the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which is actually managed by the U.S. Forest Service as opposed to the National Park Service.

Grand Teton National Park (Stayed at Colter Bay Campground) | May 24 – June 4
Yellowstone National Park (Stayed at Mammoth Campground) | June 29 – July 2
Glacier National Park (Stayed at Fish Creek Campground) | July 8 – 12
Redwood National and State Parks (Stayed at Azalea Glen RV Park) | November 11 – 13
Pinnacles National Park (Stayed at Pinnacles Campground) | November 18 – 19
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (Stayed at Lava Flow Campground) | October 27 – 28
Golden Gate Bridge (Stayed at Anthony Chabot Regional Park) | November 14 – 18
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (Stayed at Ainsworth State Park) | October 2 – 4

You can find information about all of the places we’ve stayed and traveled to in previous blog posts.

You can find wrap ups for previous years here: 2018, 2019, and 2020.

As I mentioned earlier, we started a new thing we refer to as the #CampfireSweatshirtSeries. For some reason, we decided to start taking campfire photos at every place we stayed (with a fire pit) while I sported a ‘Campfire Sweatshirt’. Are we weird? Yes. Do these pics bring me joy when I look back at them? Also yes. We have never shared these publicly before, so enjoy!

Cheers to us! at Colter Bay Campground | Grand Teton NP – May 28
Taking in the sights at Mammoth Campground | Yellowstone NP – July 2 (It was too hot for an actual fire.)
Bucks game at Fish Creek Campground | Glacier NP – July 8 (It was still too hot for an actual fire.)
#instahusband at West Glacier KOA | Coram, MT – July 13
Scrabbling at Emigrant Springs State Park | Meacham, OR – September 30
Fireside tea time at Ainsworth State Park | Corbett, OR – October 3
High five for starting a fire in what is essentially a rain forest! at Silver Falls State Park | Sublimity, OR – November 3
“There’s no one else I’d want to live in a 200sqft aluminum can with” at Harris Beach State Park | Brookings, OR – November 7
Caution: Hot at Anthony Chabot Regional Park | Castro Valley, CA – November 15
Our 20th national park at Pinnacles Campground | Pinnacles NP – November 18

We also did a Phase 2 of modifications at Ultimate Airstreams. You can read all about that here, but here are a few pics of what we had done:

We replaced the rounded sink and cabinet with a straight cabinet with new square sink.
This gave us much more room, especially in the area between the sink and the desk.
This of course required a new countertop, so we chose Corian’s rice paper color.
We also replaced the old Atwood stove/oven with a the new Furrion model. We love its look AND functionality!

On the personal front, we got on a plane in July for the first time in a long time to fly to Wisconsin to visit and spend time with family. We explored a lot of things we never got around to while living there, such as:

Lambeau Field Tour and Packers Hall of Fame – Green Bay | We’ve been to plenty of games and we’re even Packers shareholders, but Travis hadn’t done the tour since he was a kid and I had never done it, and neither of us had ever been to the Hall of Fame.

Harley Davidson Museum – Milwaukee | The museum is pretty great and has an onsite restaurant.

Lakeshore State Park – Milwaukee | This is a smaller, urban state park, but is nice for a walk along Lake Michigan.

While in Milwaukee, we were also able to catch the traveling Beyond Van Gogh exhibit…

…and check out Fiserv Forum a few hours before the Bucks won the championship!

Summer in Wisconsin can be pretty great!

We also flew to San Diego in September for our friends’ wedding. This trip actually felt like the kind of vacation we would take pre-Airstream life…

Speaking of pre-Airstream life…

While we didn’t put on a lot of miles this year and most of the places we spent the bulk of our time we had been to before, we really enjoyed our travels this year. However, towards the end of the year we officially decided to do something that we’ve been discussing for a looooong time — we’re selling the Airstream. There are many reasons that go into this decision and I’ll share them at some point, but for now, you can find more information regarding our rig at the blog post here, the RV Trader link here, the Airstream Marketplace link here, or the Airstream Hunter link here. If you are interested, please reach out. If you know someone who may be interested, please pass along our info.

 

I’m Not Even Sure What to Say About 2020

Where to begin?

Every year I like to write a post that wraps up the previous year’s travels with a proverbial bow, reliving all of the joy and wonderment we experienced. You can see how this is usually a fun little project by checking out the posts for 2018 and 2019. Obviously, this year is different. Like, so, so different.

We started the year spending the winter in the San Diego area as full-time Airstreamers and ended the year living in a condo in Bozeman, Montana. To say things took an unexpected turn is a bit of an understatement. I know that COVID-19 affected the life of pretty much every one on the planet, in a wide range of ways. We are so very grateful to be able to say that, as of this post, we have not personally experienced the virus, or lost loved ones to it. We know there are so many that can’t say the same, and our hearts hurt for the pain and loss others have experienced during this time. We know it’s still going to be a long road for our community, our country, and our planet, but we’re hopeful and optimistic that 2021 will eventually bring some health and happiness.

Besides the isolation, frustration, and disappointment that the pandemic brought to our lives, we also had to deal with the loss of our third amigo, our travel buddy, our faithful canine companion — Max. We said goodbye to Max on February 25th, just two days shy of his 15th birthday. When we first started our full-time travel life, we were so unsure how well Max would adapt. It turns out there was no need to worry, because he was the BEST Airstream dog. He slept through travel days like a champ and preferred so stay ‘home’ whenever Travis and I would venture out. The strangeness of not having a dog around after 15 years was compounded by the weirdness of the early days of the pandemic. Ten months later, and we still miss him dearly, but the thought of him no longer triggers a twinge in the heart.

So, yeah, 2020 hasn’t been the most enjoyable year, but we did have some good times and we were able to travel to some great places. Let’s look at some of that joy and wonderment we DID get to experience.

We travelled 4,608 miles across nine states — California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Dakota. Our longest travel day (which we’ll never do again) was 738 miles (you can read about that here) and our shortest travel day was 19 miles. We averaged $36.78/night for site fees, which is almost $10 less per night than 2019, so, yay us!

Michigan was the only new state we added to our travel map this year, making it our 20th state that we’ve ventured to with the Airstream. We were very happy to be able to spend some time in Michigan in fall — such a great time to be in the area!

While we had originally planned to visit a number of new National Park Service sites this year, we were able to make it to only eight, with four being new and four being return visits.

The four new sites were:

Capitol Reef National Park

Check out more from our visit to Capitol Reef here.

Voyageurs National Park

Our visit to Voyageurs makes 19 national parks visited thus far! Check out more from our visit to Voyageurs here.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Check out more from our visit to Pictured Rocks here.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Check out more from our visit to Apostle Islands here.

The other four sites we were able to revisit were:

Zion National Park

Due to the pandemic, the only exploring we did of Zion during this time was to take a drive up the canyon, which is usually closed to vehicles, but was open because the shuttles weren’t running.

Check out more about our visit to Zion here. Read more about our previous visit here and here.

Yellowstone National Park

Check out more from our visit to Yellowstone here. Read more about our previous visit here.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Check out more about our visit to Roosevelt NP here. Read about our previous visit here.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument 

Check out more about our visit to Little Bighorn here. Read about our previous visit here.

But our year wasn’t just about the parks! Take a look at some of the other things that brought us joy this year ->

We visited some of the ‘World’s Largest’ statues:

We ran into some interesting creatures in the Anza-Borrego Desert:

We tried a new sport:

We were able to meet up with a handful of other full timers:

We enjoyed some beach days and amazing sunsets:

Pre-pandemic, we were able to spend time with some of our favorite people:

And when we didn’t think it was going to happen, we ended up being able to spend some safe, socially distanced time with family:

The pandemic forced us to change our travel plans for 2020 (goodbye, hard-earned FL state park reservations!), so we made a decision. A big one. Even though the RV lifestyle somewhat prepared us for pandemic life (you can read about that here), it didn’t make sense for us to stay on the road. After dealing with multiple reservation cancellations and watching things close as the case numbers rose, we decided that the best thing for us was to get off the road and settle down for the time being. One of the best parts of full timing is not only exploring the natural wonders of our country, but also meeting new people along the way and checking out things in each city we visit — restaurants, museums, community events, etc. With all of these things closed, traveling just wasn’t that enjoyable. And we wanted to make sure we stayed healthy. So, we purchased a condo in Bozeman, Montana in July. Read more about what led to that decision here.

We’ve been enjoying safely exploring our new city:

And we’re learning to embrace winter (kind of):

But probably the weirdest thing to happen to us personally in 2020, is our appearance on HGTV’s House Hunters!

We filmed the episode in August and it aired in December. It highlighted our transition from full-time travel to part-time condo living. It was an interesting and tiring experience!

Which brings me to what’s next for us:

We plan to continue to travel in the Airstream — A LOT. It’s nice to have a home base to return to when we need a break or something comes up, but we miss being on the road. We’ll get back out there once we feel comfortable doing so, which for us means when we’re both vaccinated. It’s been nice to take a pause and enjoy some of the things you give up when you live tiny, such as a king-size bed, a dishwasher, a washer & dryer, and easy access to our mail, medical care, and good grocery stores. There’s still so much left to explore! And we aren’t really cold weather people, so we’re looking forward to seeking out warmth in the coming winters.

We’re wishing everyone a safe and healthy 2021! Hopefully, we’ll see you somewhere out there!

 

A Synopsis of Our Second Year on the Road

Our second year as full-time Airstream dwellers/digital nomads/travelers has come and gone. We added a few new states to our travel map (North Dakota, Nebraska, and Idaho), crossed the northern border for the first time (it won’t be the last time), and traveled 7,607 miles (just 61 miles less than last year). Our longest drive day was 377 miles and our shortest was 6.5 miles. We averaged $46.63/night in lodging costs, thanks to spending 45 days in a condo/hotels at various times throughout the year while our converter was fixed, solar panels were installed, and modifications were done to the interior.

We continued to learn more about ourselves, our Airstream, our country, and the nomadic lifestyle. Here’s a look back at our second year on the road:

We visited 13 National Park Service sites, with 8 of them being new to us:

Zion National Park
Arches National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Petroglyph National Monument
Pompeys Pillar National Monument
Jewel Cave National Monument
Mohave National Preserve

We also revisited Death Valley, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, and Mount Rushmore.

With our return visit to South Dakota, we were able to conquer the remaining 3 sites of South Dakota’s Great 8, the other 5 of which we saw last summer:

Crazy Horse Memorial
Deadwood
Jewel Cave National Monument

The other 5 are Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park and the Missouri River.

We hiked, and hiked, and hiked…

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve | Desert Hot Springs, CA
Mollies Nipple Trail | Hurricane, UT
Hidden Falls Trail | Grand Teton NP
Little Devil’s Tower Trail | Custer SP – Custer, SD
Hidden Lake Trail | Glacier NP

and paddled, and paddled, and paddled…

Sand Hollow SP | Hurricane, UT
Jackson Lake | Grand Teton NP
Lake Louise | Banff NP
Moraine Lake | Banff NP

and soaked, and soaked, and soaked.

Lava Hot Springs | Lava Hot Springs, ID
Bozeman Hot Springs | Bozeman, MT
Catalina Spa RV Resort | Desert Hot Springs, CA

We chased waterfalls…

Kanarra Falls | Kanarraville, UT
Hidden Falls | Grand Teton NP
Bridal Veil Falls | Spearfish, SD
Johnston Canyon Upper Falls | Banff NP
Virginia Falls | Glacier NP

but we also stuck to the rivers…

Firehole River | Yellowstone NP
Colorado River | Moab, UT
Missouri River | Helena, MT

and the lakes that we’re (not) used to.

Utah Lake | Utah Lake SP – Provo, UT
Jackson Lake | Grand Teton NP
Lake Agnes | Banf NP
Avalanche Lake | Glacier NP
Moraine Lake | Banff NP

We drank beer…

Miner Brewing Co. | Hill City, SD
Nordic Brew Works | Bozeman, MT
Deschutes Brewery | Portland, OR
Firestone Walker Brewing Company | Paso Robles, CA

and wine…

Prairie Berry Winery | Hill City, SD
Michael David Winery | Lodi, CA
Glunz Family Winery | Paso Robles, CA

and cocktails…

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise | Banff NP
Sky Bistro | Banff, AB
Glacier Distilling Company | Coram, MT
Jake’s Del Mar | Del Mar, CA

and tea.

Lake Agnes Tea House | Banff NP
Portland Japanese Garden | Portland, OR

We rode a gondola in Palm Springs…

and one in Banff.

(Have I mentioned I don’t like gondolas?)

We saw where Forrest Gump ended his run…

Mexican Hat, UT

and where Thelma and Louise drove off a cliff.

Dead Horse Point SP | Moab, UT

We saw lots of wildlife…

Death Valley NP
Beatty, NV
Grand Teton NP
Grand Teton NP
Yellowstone NP
Glacier NP
Banff NP

and visited the geographic center of the country.

Belle Fourche, SD

We added four new tires,

Discount Tire | Albuquerque, NM

two new batteries,

AM Solar | Springfield, OR

four new solar panels,

AM Solar | Springfield, OR

and a couch and a desk.

Ultimate Airstreams | Clackamas, OR
Ultimate Airstreams | Clackamas, OR
Ultimate Airstreams | Clackamas, OR

We had visitors in Las Vegas; Hurricane, UT; Custer, SD; and Glacier National Park:

 

Our second year on the road was fantastically fun and memorable, even with the issues we encountered. (I’m looking at you flat tire and junk converter.) All of the inconveniences we deal with are by far worth the amazing places we get to experience. Thanks for following along and we hope you stick around for 2020, our third year on the road — although we’re not really sure what’s in store yet!

 

Airstream Modifications with Ultimate Airstreams (and a Stay in Portland, OR)

We had Ultimate Airstreams do some much-needed modifications to our 2017 27′ International Signature Airstream. We lived in it for a year and a half and decided to make some changes in order to make it more full-time friendly. We contacted Ultimate Airstreams back in April to discuss the changes we’d like make and to schedule an appointment. We worked with Ian to design a new layout that would work better for us and we dropped the Airstream off on September 3rd for a five-week renovation.

The factory-installed Airstream ‘couches’ are notoriously uncomfortable. Airstreams are not designed for full-time living, and the seating is a good indicator of that. The most important aspect in our new layout was having a comfortable couch. Like, a real couch. And that’s what Ultimate Airstreams did. Our couch actually started as a couch from IKEA that was manipulated and altered to fit into the Airstream. The cushions were reupholstered with a durable vinyl material that looks very much like leather in the Vintage Pretzel color. To replace the storage that was lost under each bench seat, two large drawers were installed under the couch. While the couch no longer converts to a bed, it is large enough for one person to sleep on, if needed. There are cup holders in the arms of the couch and two pop-up outlets behind it — one inverter and one regular. We absolutely love our couch and are finally able to watch TV in comfort!

The long bench seat was never really utilized in our Airstream — hardly anybody ever sat on it and nobody every slept on it. We replaced it with a desk, which has really changed our daily life. After about 21 months of setting up and breaking down the 27″ iMac every day, or leaving it sitting on the dinette table where it always seemed to be in the way, we finally have a functioning ‘office’. We are full timers that still work full time. There’s no end in sight for living the full-time lifestyle, so we needed to make our space work better for us. Thanks to the modifications, we have a dedicated work space by day and a comfortable lounging space by night that allows us both to see the TV without having to put the computer away every evening. We chose a butcher block top for the desk, which looks great alongside the cabinets and couch. When designing the desk, a must for me was to have a pull-out garbage can. The Airstream came with one tiny, under-sink garbage — again, not really meant for full-time living. We had a full-size garbage that would sit in front of the pantry, but we had to move it any time we wanted to open the pantry. Super annoying. We now have an out-of-sight, out-of-mind garbage as well as a drawer for storage above it.

(And because I always get at least one message asking about how we store the iMac while traveling whenever I post about it, read this blog post about the case we use and where we store while under tow.)

We purchased the desk chair from the Laura Davidson website. It’s a knockoff of the ridiculously priced Herman Miller Eames Soft Pad chair. It comes with rolling casters on it, but the website also sells these stationary glides. In order to keep the chair secure while towing, Kenny at Ultimate Airstreams installed hooks to which we attach a bungee cord that is wrapped around the base of the chair.

They found a new home for the fire extinguisher that always seemed to be in the way (Max’s collar got caught on it a couple of times.) They also fixed a few things that had been on our to-do list — replaced missing rivets, replaced the broken bathroom doorknob, made our door easier to open and close (it previously took a lot of muscle), and fixed our awning LED lights that have never worked.

We are beyond thrilled with the finished product! Ian and Kenny were fantastic to work with and they actually finished the project almost a week ahead of schedule, so we were able to pick it up early. Ultimate Airstreams is located in Clackamas, Oregon and is owned by Airstream Adventures Northwest, the five Airstream dealerships located in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and NorCal. If you dream it up, they can make it happen! We’ve been living in our newly remodeled trailer for a week and a half now and have commented almost daily about how nice it is and how we wish we would have done it sooner. However, waiting so long let us figure out exactly what we wanted/needed.

Ultimate Airstreams

16520 SE Evelyn Street

Clackamas, OR 97015

www.ultimateairstream.com

Our Stay in Portland

While Ultimate Airstreams was working on our home, we rented a condo in Portland for five weeks. It was located in the South Waterfront neighborhood, which is a clean, quiet neighborhood along the Willamette River. There’s a really nice, dog-friendly green space along the river, a farmer’s market every Thursday night in the neighborhood park, a few shops, an Orange Theory Fitness (which we both joined for a month), and a handful of food options within a few blocks of where we stayed, which was the The John Ross building.

Definitely a different kind of lifestyle than we’re used to!
The South Waterfront Greenway was a great place to walk Max every morning and was only a block from our condo.
The weekly farmer’s market where we’d stock up on goodies.
There’s a Blue Star Donuts in the neighborhood, which was both wonderful and terrible. When in Portland, skip Voodoo Donuts and head to Blue Star instead.
There’s also a vet in the neighborhood, whom Max had to visit after getting an eye infection at Cannon Beach. We saw two different doctors on two different occasions and they were both fantastic.

We didn’t venture out as much as we would have liked for a few reasons: We were busy with work; I (Missy) took a trip to Wisconsin to visit family; and the parking situation wasn’t ideal. The building has underground parking, but it’s not really built for a large truck. We technically fit without scraping the ceiling, but the assigned parking spots are very snug. If other cars were parked around us, it took both of us to get in and out of the spot — Travis driving and me directing him through a 27-point turn so we didn’t hit anybody. Not really ideal for exploring the city. However, we did make it to the following sites:

Washington Park: Home to the Hoyt Arboretum, International Rose Test Garden, Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, World Forestry Center, and the Portland Japanese Garden, the latter of which we spent a decent amount of time at. The Japanese Garden is laid out so beautifully and is very serene. We grabbed a bite for lunch at their Umami Cafe. I would definitely put this on the list as a must-see when visiting Portland!

The Pearl District: It’s only about a 10-minute drive from South Waterfront to this neighborhood where you’ll find Powell’s Books, Deschutes Brewery, trendy boutiques, big-name stores, restaurants, bars, breweries, coffee shops, and galleries. There’s also a Whole Foods with an Amazon Locker where we had a package sent. If we were to recommend an area for someone to stay who is going to visit Portland, this is it.

Cannon Beach: It’s a little over an hour and half drive to Cannon Beach from Portland. It was a much needed and enjoyed trip by all three of us.

Studio One Theaters: A luxury movie theater with a more personal vibe. Our particular theater was set up and decorated like a New York penthouse.

We know there is so much more to explore in Portland and hope to get back some day to do so. After picking up the Airstream from Ultimate Airstreams, we stayed at Pheasant Ridge RV Park, about 20 minutes south of Portland. We spent a few days there while moving back into the Airstream and getting everything organized. We’d highly recommend Pheasant Ridge as a basecamp while the visiting the Portland area. Read our review here.

Solar Panels, Batteries, and Brakes in Eugene, OR

Solar and Battery Upgrade

When we bought the Airstream in June of 2017, we had the dealership install two 100w flex solar panels. We never upgraded the batteries to anything beyond what was installed at the factory, and even after replacing those first batteries with a new set (of the same), they were never able to hold a charge like we would need to successfully function without shore power (that’s what RVers call an electric hookup). We talked about upgrading the batteries for a while, and in doing research, found that our flex panels don’t generally have a long life expectancy either. In April, after 15 months on the road, we decided we wanted to add two more solar panels and upgrade to lithium batteries. We knew we were missing out on one of the benefits of this lifestyle, which is to be able to stay places without having to hook up. There are so many options out there for boondocking, especially in the West. We wanted to have the convenience and flexibility to be able to subsist for a few nights and not have to depend on electricity. We scheduled an appointment for late August with AM Solar in Springfield, Oregon, who we found to have rave reviews.

We originally were going to have them install just two 100w rigid panels, but decided to have them replace the flex panels as well. We now have four 100w rigid panels. We swapped our crappy batteries for two Battle Born 12v 100Ah lithium batteries. Our original converter has been disconnected and replaced with two lithium-compatible chargers. To complete the upgrade, a Victron battery monitor system was installed so we can monitor our battery levels as well as our solar input on our phones in the Victron app.

There are two big decisions that need to be made when upgrading solar and batteries: Lithium vs AGM batteries and Fixed vs Portable solar panels. You should make these decisions based on how YOU are going to use YOUR rig – don’t worry about how other people are using theirs. We weren’t looking to be able to live off grid 100% of the time, though we are fully capable of doing that now, but to have the flexibility and convenience to make decisions about where we stay independent of whether or not there’s an electric hook up. Sometimes we want full hookups, other times we don’t. We have a great setup now for the times we don’t.

There are some solar purists out there that feel that anything other than portable solar panels are a waste of money. Again, this depends on how you’re going to use your rig. For the non-RVers out there, when you park a trailer in direct sun, it gets hot inside. Alternatively, when you park in the shade, it stays cooler. For the people that like to stay off grid regularly, being able to park in the shade but still receive sun on the solar panels is a necessity. In cases like this, one would need to have portable solar panels that are plugged into the RV by a long cord, but sit on the ground and are able to be moved around and adjusted as needed in reference to where the sun is in the sky. We don’t like heat. When it’s hot, we like to use our air conditioning. In order to use a/c, we need to have an electric hookup as our inverter does not support running a/c. It’s possible to install an inverter powerful enough that will allow you to run a/c strictly off of battery power as opposed to shore power, but it’s very pricy, and as I said, we aren’t looking to go off grid permanently so it’s unnecessary for us. If it’s hot, we like to be on shore power. Therefore, we don’t need to be able to park in the shade and still get sun to our solar panels. We’ll save our dependent-on-solar-panels days for cooler temps that allow us to sit in direct sun without feeling like we’re slowing baking inside our Airstream.

Wholesale Solar has a great blog post that explains lithium vs AGM batteries better than I ever could, so please click here to read it if this topic interests you. For us, the deciding factors were that lithium has a much greater depth of discharge, a faster charge rate, and a longer lifespan.

So, what exactly can we do with our fancy new batteries and solar panels? We recently spent about 24 hours at a Harvest Hosts to try our new system out. We made dinner in the oven, watched hours of TV, had the furnace kick in a few times, ran the fridge on propane, charged cell phones, used the water pump as needed, turned on lights, and used the stove to heat water for the French press. The lowest our batteries got to was 78%, and seeing as they can safely get down to 20% and we were not holding back on using power, we were very impressed. Even though it was raining when we hitched up and rained for about half of our 4-hour drive, we were back up to 100% when we reached our next destination, thanks to our solar panels.

While this project was not cheap, to us, the convenience it provides and the money we can save boondocking is worth every penny. The staff at AM Solar are consummate professionals and did an amazing job. Everything is under warranty for an unheard of seven years, so we have peace of mind that if any issues should arise in years to come, AM Solar has our back!

AM Solar

3555 Marcola Road, Springfield, OR 97477

www.amsolar.com

The finished product!
AM Solar used one of the storage compartments under one of our twin beds to install the batteries and equipment.
Battle Born lithium batteries come with a 10-year warranty.
The battery screen in the VictronConnect app.
The solar screen in the VictronConnect app.

 

What’s that sound?

The day before we dropped the Airstream off at AM Solar, we pulled into a campground in Cascade Locks, Oregon and noticed an odd rattling sound coming from the wheel area on the passenger side of the Airstream. Travis crawled underneath to see if he could see what was going on, but didn’t see anything obvious. Seeing as there was nothing we could do where we currently were, we hitched up the next day and continued to Springfield with bated breath. We knew there was an Airstream dealership/service center in Portland, so figured that was going to be our best option. After we dropped the Airstream off at AM Solar, we drove to our hotel in downtown Eugene. Along the way, we noticed a billboard for Sutton RV, the ‘Pacific Northwest’s Original Airstream Dealership’ which was located in Eugene.

Guys, this is the second time we’ve had an issue with the Airstream and both times we happened to be in a city with an Airstream dealership/service center. What are the odds?

We called them the next morning, which was a Monday. We explained our situation: weird noise; full timers; Airstream currently at AM Solar until Thursday; Airstream would be dropped off at Ultimate Airstreams the following Tuesday. It was a small window of time. They were busy. It was short notice. BUT, they told us to bring it in Thursday and they would look at it to at least diagnose the problem. We cancelled the first night of our RV park stay and extended our hotel stay one night. We picked the trailer up Thursday from AM Solar and drove 15 minutes to Sutton RV. Just 2.5 hours later we got a call saying one of our brakes was basically shredded and needed to be replaced. They had the part and the Airstream would be fixed and ready to go Friday afternoon. Yay! We were able to pick the Airstream up 24 hours after dropping it off and continue on our way to Portland. Kelly at Sutton RV did us a solid and was awesome to work with. While we hope we never have to see them again, we know we’d receive fantastic service from a hard-working and honest service department if a problem were to arise in their area again.

Sutton RV

2400 W. 7th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402

www.suttonrv.com

The old. When Kelly sent this picture he said, “Your holding bolts broke off and you had parts missing.” Yikes!
The new.

 

Our Stay in Eugene

While AM Solar was working on the Airstream and Sutton RV fixed our brake issue, we stayed at the Home 2 Suites in Eugene. While the hotel was very nice – suite with kitchenette, indoor pool, free breakfast, free laundry, decent fitness center – I would not stay there again. There’s a very large transient population in downtown Eugene, which made us feel a little uncomfortable walking around. After living in San Diego for a while, homelessness is not unfamiliar to us, but we saw some really nasty things that were pretty off putting. Our recommendation for anyone getting work done at AM Solar that needs to stay in a hotel for a few days would be to stay in Springfield.

Home 2 Suites by Hilton Eugene Downtown

102 W 11th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401

www.hilton.com

 

One Year on the Road

Today marks one year since we started living, working and traveling full time in our Airstream. One year ago feels both so incredibly distant, but also like it flew by! We have learned a lot in the last twelve months — about ourselves, about our airstream, and about what we hope to get out of this lifestyle. Here’s a look back at our first year as nomads:

We travelled 7,997 miles across 16 states:

California

Alabama Hills – Lone Pine, CA
Trinidad, CA
Poway, CA
Newport Beach, CA

Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park – Overton, NV
Las Vegas, NV
Zephyr Cove (Lake Tahoe), NV

Utah

Snow Canyon State Park – Ivins, UT
Snow Canyon State Park – Ivins, UT

Arizona

Page, AZ
Antelope Canyon – Page, AZ

New Mexico

Santa Fe, NM (We were in Santa Fe for only one night and checked out Meow Wolf, which we highly recommend!)

Colorado

Pueblo, CO
Lake Pueblo State Park – Pueblo, CO
Lake Pueblo State Park – Pueblo, CO

Kansas

Dodge City, KS (It was VERY cold and windy the couple of nights we were there, so we didn’t get a chance to explore.)

Missouri

National World War I Museum and Memorial – Kansas City, MO
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – Kansas City, MO
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum – Independence, MO

Iowa

(We spent two isolated, quiet nights in Cedar Point, IA and have nothing to show for it. Sorry, Iowa)

Wisconsin

Breezy Hills Campground – Fond du Lac, WI
Van Dyne, WI
Neshonoc Lakeside Camp Resort – West Salem, WI

Minnesota

Minneopa State Park – Mankato, MN
Bunker Hills Campground – Coon Rapids, MN
Bunker Hills Campground – Coon Rapids, MN

South Dakota

Dignity Statue – Chamberlain, SD
Black Elk Peak – Black Hills of SD
Black Elk Peak – Black Hills of SD
Custer State Park – Custer, SD

Wyoming

Devils Tower, WY

Montana

Max was super excited for Montana!
Garryowen, MT
Billings, MT (with cotton from the Cottonwood trees floating in the air)
Along the ‘M’ Trail in Bozeman, MT

Washington

Spokane, WA
Spokane, WA

Oregon

Cannon Beach, OR
Otis, OR
Ona Beach State Park – Newport, OR
Reedsport, OR
Winchester Bay, OR
Coos Bay, OR

 

We visited 24 National Park Service sites:

Joshua Tree National Park

Death Valley National Park

Saguaro National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

Badlands National Park

Wind Cave National Park

Glacier National Park

Redwood National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Yosemite National Park

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument

 

Harry S. Truman National Historic Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Manzanar National Historic Site

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area

…and one ghost town (Bodie, CA)…

…the world’s only corn palace (Mitchell, SD)…

…and a cheese factory (Tillamook, OR).

We drank some beer…

Santa Fe, NM
Yachats, OR
Coos Bay, OR

…and some liquor…

Coram, MT

…and some wine!

Pahrump, NV
Temecula, CA

We boondocked for the first time in Wisconsin on a family friend’s farm…

…and stayed at a Harvest Hosts for the first time in Nevada.

Travis ran a half marathon in Death Valley…

…and we learned how to play pickle ball.

We did a lot of hiking…

…and a bit of relaxing.

But most importantly, we were able to spend a lot of time with family and friends!

As you can see, it was a great year! We have a lot of amazing adventures planned for 2019, and we look forward to sharing them with you!

Our First 109 Days

I meant to write this post on our 100th day of full-time travel, which was April 24th, but as tends to happen, we got busy and I just didn’t get around to it soon enough, so 109 days will have to work. There are a lot of people out there considering the full-time travel lifestyle or those that are fairly new to it, like us, so I thought I’d share what we’ve learned thus far. Although, I’ve got to be honest – 109 days in and we don’t feel like newbies, even a little bit. It’s amazing how easy it was to adjust to life on the road and how quickly our Airstream began to feel like home.

Things We Thought Would Be Hard and Scary Aren’t So Hard and Scary:

  • Figuring Out How Everything Works: There are a lot of things that make an Airstream function properly and we got a brief, incredibly overwhelming introduction to them during our walkthrough when we picked the trailer up from the dealership. That was five months before we actually hit the road, so we Googled and YouTubed everything when it came time to travel. Don’t worry – everybody does it. It’s how you learn. You also learn by asking questions of those that are more experienced than yourself. The Airstream Addicts Facebook page and the Air Forum website are great places to get additional information (just know you’ll find lots of opinions there too). Also, the Airstream Instagram community is pretty great as well.
  • Emptying the Black Tank Isn’t That Bad: While it’s still gross, mainly just because of the odor, it really isn’t as awful as we thought it would be. Just be smart. Only use RV-friendly toilet paper and always drop a tank treatment packet in each time it’s emptied. We empty it about once a week and always give it a good flushing with the hose.
  • Hitching Up: This was probably the scariest thing for us. If you screw up hitching up, you can cause serious damage to your trailer and your tow vehicle. Go slow, have two sets of eyes on everything, and YouTube what needs to be YouTubed until you don’t need to YouTube anymore. A lot of people have checklists, but both of us knowing what needs to be done and double checking everything before we take off seems to work just fine for us.
  • Towing: You know how I said hitching up was probably the scariest for us? Well, I lied. Towing is scary, but it’s a lot less scary now after doing it for over 3000 miles. Unfortunately, the things that make it scariest (other drivers) are out of our control. People will constantly pass you on the highway – get used to it and don’t let it distract you. They’ll cut you off. They’ll sit in your blindspot. For anyone out there who has never known the fear of towing a 28′ trailer — be considerate and give these vehicles lots of space. Also, you will most likely learn to hate semi drivers. Travis has done all of the towing so far. I plan to get behind the wheel at some point, because we think it’s important for both of us to be able to do it. When purchasing a tow vehicle, get every option available to make towing easier. With our Ford F-150, the trailer break and blind spot monitoring are essential. Some people may feel the Trailer Backup Assist is too, but we’ve never used it.
  • Backing Up: Here’s the thing about backing up – it hurts your brain – but once you’ve figured out which direction and how far to turn the wheel, it’s easy enough. Speed is your enemy. Go slow and make small adjustments along the way so you don’t get yourself in a situation that’s hard to get out of. Figure out if hand signals or walkie-talkies or using driver side/passenger side versus left/right works for you and go with it. And never, ever get mad at your partner for the words that come out of their mouth while backing up the trailer. By the way, we opt for the pull-throughs when available.

Things We’ve Learned About Our Airstream:

  • Many people will tell you to buy a used Airstream that’s a few years old so that all of the issues have been worked out of it. We felt it was important to buy new so that we knew exactly what the trailer has been through and how it’s been maintained. Just as buying new doesn’t guarantee everything is going to be perfect, buying used doesn’t guarantee all of the kinks will be worked out.
  • Smoke Detector: Super sensitive. As in, ‘I’m just trying to make some toast in the toaster but the smoke alarm goes off ‘ sensitive. The vent hood gets turned on whenever anything is cooked and we put a shower cap over the smoke detector until the cooking is done. Of course, we never, ever leave the trailer when the stove or oven is on and we always remove the shower cap immediately.
  • Fresh Water Tank: The fresh water tank is literally under lock and key as you need to unlock a small access door in order to fill it. Our fresh water tank, however, likes to fill on its own while we’re hooked up to city water. This apparently is an issue many Airstreamers encounter and is due to a faulty valve on the autofill relay (whatever that means). We know how to temporarily remedy the issue, but will have it looked at at some point in the future. It’s important to check the level of your tanks regularly. If you notice your supposedly empty freshwater tank is taking on water or is full, turn the city water off at the spigot. Turn the water pump on and use up the water that’s in the fresh water tank. You can then turn the city water back on and hopefully the issue is corrected. I know some people avoid this issue by strictly using the water pump and others turn their water off when away from their trailer so they don’t have to worry about an overflow situation. If you ever return to your trailer and see water pouring out of the area where the tanks are located, this is probably the issue.
  • Windows: They stick and need to be (carefully) unsealed from the outside. Never try to force a window open, as they can shatter. Use a credit card or something similar to stick between the window and the rubber seal, and gently slide it along the bottom of the (unlocked) window until it’s unstuck.

Things We’ve Learned About Living in a Small Space:

  • We’ve lived in a small space before. When we first moved to San Diego, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment where we also both worked from home, so we’ve experienced tiny home living before as well as spending 24 hours a day together. The transition to the Airstream was not that difficult for us.
  • When living in a small space, it doesn’t take much for the place to feel messy. Keeping things tidy is essential: Make the beds. Do the dishes. Put things back where they belong immediately. Close cabinet doors and drawers.
  • There’s Not Much Privacy: You can’t be bashful about bodily functions in an Airstream. There’s a fan in the bathroom that helps mask noise, but there’s no hiding what’s going down in there. There are two curtains that separate the front from the rear of the trailer, so you can get some visual privacy, but not really any sound privacy.
  • We Downsized Too Much: This probably wouldn’t be the case for most people. Neither Travis nor I are sentimental people. We had no problem throwing away, donating, or selling most of our stuff. The must keep items are in a storage locker in San Diego. The rest fits in the trailer with room to spare. There are a few items that I wish I personally would’ve kept (cute little jean jacket and Grey’s Anatomy DVDs) that definitely would have had a place in the trailer. If you have the luxury of a slow move in, bring everything you want to keep and toss as you realize you don’t have room or a need for something.

Route Planning/Travel Days:

  • I wish that we could be people who didn’t need to plan our route ahead of time. We own a consulting business and Travis has to travel to visit customers about once a month, so our route planning is a lot less spontaneous than we’d prefer.
  • We’ve found that we really enjoy State Parks. They typically have a good combination of nature and basic amenities. Every one we’ve stayed at has had water and electric hookups with pretty decent showers, which means you can make your grey tank last longer. The longest we’ve gone without being hooked up to sewer was seven days. The sweet spot is probably is four. State Parks also tend to be pretty dog friendly.
  • We’ve found that we prefer to drive no more than three hours a day. During our drive to Wisconsin, we were driving up to six hours a day, and that is way too much. It feels like an entire day is wasted and it makes us cranky. Plus, we like to try visit a landmark or attraction of some sort wherever we stay and long travel days can interfere with that.
  • Keep time zones in mind when figuring out departing and arrival times.
  • Always keep your eye on the weather a few days in advance for not only where you currently are but also where you’re headed. We once had to make a change when our originally scheduled travel day was forecasted to have 35mph winds with gusts up to 60. No bueno.

Miscellaneous Nuggets of Information:

  • Always fill fresh water before you hit the road – you never know if the next place is going to have it for sure.
  • We’ve become champions of short showers. When at a place with decent showers – use them! Washing my hair in our shower is difficult, so I always take advantage of the showers.
  • We share a towel because there just isn’t a good place to hang two to dry.
  • There’s a Dollar General in EVERY town/city even if it’s not actually a town or city. Seriously, every one. I started noticing this phenomenon early in our travels when we were on our way to Death Valley and it has held up.
  • Regardless of what others think, we do NOT feel like we’re on vacation all the time. We still work, do laundry, clean, do the dishes, make the beds, etc.
  • I’ve always hated having stuff (sweatshirts, empty bottles, etc.) lying around inside the car. I was a firm believer the interior of a car should be clean. Well, that goes out the window when you travel full time. A storage bin, two water cans and a dog backpack live in the backseat of the truck – and I’m okay with that.
  • If you’re a lover of watching TV, you may want to consider getting satellite. We just use the built-in over-the-air antenna — sometimes it works great, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. We’ve gone as long as six weeks without picking up any channels. That’s where DVDs come in handy.

If you have any questions about things I mentioned above, or things I didn’t mention above, please comment below or send a message and I’ll do my best to address them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things You Need to Start Your Airstream Travels

We did not spend one night in our Airstream before we started living in it full time — crazy, right? In the months that led up to our departure date, we scoured the interwebs to determine what things were needed to live and travel in an Airstream. Most items we purchased were hits; some were misses. After six weeks on the road, we’ve realized what’s important, what’s not, and what falls somewhere in between.

The following lists are what work for us in our life in our 2017 27FB International Signature. I have not included anything to do with the towing aspect including tow vehicle, mirrors, back-up camera, hitch, sway control, etc. I’m not posting links of where to find the products as that would take a looooong time, but if you want more info about something, let me know.

You Definitely, 100%, Need These Things:

  • Sewer Hose Kit
  • 30 Amp Power Cord (included with new Airstream)
  • Hose for Fresh Water Only (included with new Airstream)
  • Tire Chocks
  • Levelers
  • Bubble Levels
  • RV Toilet Paper
  • Tank Treatment Toilet Drop-Ins
  • Hitch Ball Lube
  • Disposable Gloves (for Dumping)

The above items will allow you to be fully hooked up, level, not roll away, and avoid poo issues (clogged black tank, stinky toilet, nasty hands) — so, the important stuff.

May Not Need Yet but Definitely Will Some Day:

  • Sewer Hose Extension
  • Sewer Hose Support
  • Hose to Flush Black Tank
  • 50 Amp to 30 Amp Adaptor

When I say some day, I mean some day soon. We lived without these items for a few days, but all but the sewer hose extension were purchased within the first week. The sewer hookup where we are currently staying is at the back of the site, so our original 15′ hose didn’t reach; therefore, we needed an extension. The hose support allows gravity to do it’s job when you empty the gray and black tanks. The hose to flush the black tank is used every time we empty it to get all of the ‘stuff’ washed off the sides of the tank. And the adaptor is used when only 50 Amp service is available, which happened at the first place we stayed.

Our 15′ sewer hose with 10′ extension which is supported with a sewer hose support system.

Don’t NEED, but Should Strongly Consider:

  • Hitch Lock
  • Propane Tank Lock
  • RV Surge Protector
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • LP Tank Monitoring System
  • Water Filter
  • Dehumidifier

If we lived in a perfect world, you wouldn’t need the first two items — but we don’t, so you may want to consider them. The surge protector is a pricy item, but what’s even pricier is if you hook up to a bad pedestal and it fries the electrical items in your Airstream. The tire pressure monitoring system is also a little pricy. If you don’t want to invest in it at this time, do make sure to purchase a tire pressure gauge and check the tires before every trip. There’s a lot of weight on those tires and they need to be topped off often, especially if they’re sitting in the sun. The LP tank monitoring system is so you know how much propane you have left. Some people may like to chance it, but we want to make sure we don’t run out on a night with below-freezing temps. For us, the water filter falls under necessity, but doesn’t for everyone. We don’t drink the water out of the faucets, but we do use it to shower, wash our hands, and wash the dishes, so we want the water to be clean. We hook the filter up at the spigot-end of the hose so that only filtered water runs through our hose. The dehumidifier is a must if you’ll be spending time anywhere that has some humidity. We also use DampRid to cut the moisture when we’re not able to run the dehumidifier.

Our Progressive Industries EMS-PT30C Portable EMS RV Surge Protector, which is secured with a cable and lock.
We mounted the monitor for the AP Products 024-1000 Tank Check LP with Monitor Kit under the SeeLevel Tank Monitor.

Don’t Need, but Make Life Easier:

  • Generator
  • Wet/Dry Vac
  • Small Air Compressor
  • Security Cables and Locks
  • Assorted Bungees and Straps
  • Assorted Baskets and Bins
  • Assorted Mounting Tape/Hooks (Velcro, 3M, Scotch)
  • Museum Putty
  • Magnetic Knife Holder
  • Magnetic Spice Tins

Some people will never use a generator — it all depends on what type of Airstreamer you are. They are expensive, so do not buy one until you need it. We use the (small) wet/dry vac to vacuum out the truck (often) and seal things into Space Bags. We have a small air compressor that we use to fill our tires. Security cables and locks are important if you want to lock up your generator or surge protector or whatnot. They aren’t that expensive and they don’t take up a lot of room, so you can have them on hand if the need arises. The next four items are all about organization and securing things. For instance, we have our generator and gas can strapped in in the bed of our truck so they don’t slide around when we travel. We’ve used various (removable) hooks throughout the trailer, velcro to hold rugs in place, (removable) 3M tape to hang things on the wall, and museum putty to keep light things on the counter in place. And baskets — so many baskets! For office supplies and toiletries and basically anywhere a basket fits. The last two items get items out of the kitchen drawers/cabinets and into an otherwise dead space. We mounted the knife holder above our stove (though I’d recommend mounting it so the knife handles are up which would prevent the knifes from sliding down while undertow) and have the spice tins stuck on the vent hood.

Both the Ouddy 16″ Magnetic Knife Holder and the Kamenstein Magnetic Multi-Purpose Spice Storage Tins were purchased from Amazon.

So, that’s it — the important stuff, anyways! Of course, there’s still the camping stuff (propane grill, chairs, cooler, etc.) and the hiking stuff (backpacks, boots, headlamps, etc.) and the appliances (coffee maker, InstantPot, travel iron, etc.) and work-related stuff (printer and Gator Case for the iMac), but those are individual choices only you can make.

UPDATE 4/20/21: Don’t get too stressed about having all of the right supplies and gear from day 1. Some RVers swear by some products, while others have no need for them. You’ll figure it out as you go. We purchased many things at the beginning of our Airstream life based on what others have said are essential items — and we’ve given many things away because we never used them. A heated hose, gravity chairs, X chocks? Nope, nope, and nope. We’ve found that we’re usually close enough to somewhere to buy what we need when the need arises. A lot of campgrounds and RV parks carry basic supplies. Of course, a place like Camping World (which can be super overpriced), should have what you need. Also check Walmarts, Ace Hardwares, or other local hardware/building supply stores. And RV dealerships. While there may be a bit of a markup, if you’re in a pinch, many RV dealerships sells supplies and possibly, parts.